Quarterbacks Compete For Backup Jobs

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Houston Nutt has an abundance of quarterbacks this fall, but there is no controversy over which one is the starter.

Junior Casey Dick is taking reps with the first-team offense in practice, and he'll likely continue doing so for the remainder of the season unless something unexpected happens.

But as the Razorbacks have shown in the past, sometimes it's good to have more than one or two quarterbacks ready to play — just in case.

"We're trying to find out who's going to be that third (quarterback)," Nutt said following Sunday afternoon's practice. "But again, the main thing is to find out who's the first guy, and we feel like it's going to be Casey Dick."

Barring an injury, Dick will start the season opener against Troy University on Sept. 1. His backup will almost certainly be sophomore Nathan Emert, a Shiloh Christian graduate who received a football scholarship from Arkansas' coaches this summer.

After that, the race for the No. 3 job is wide open.

It might seem like a waste of time to worry about who will be the third quarterback on Arkansas' depth chart this season. But consider that Dick has had back problems in the past and he struggled with his accuracy toward the end of last season.

At the same time, Emert has never attempted a pass at Arkansas. He sat out last season after transferring from Missouri Southern.

That could open the door for a player like freshman Nathan Dick, Casey's younger brother, to get some playing time should the unlikely happen.

"There is a point where at any time I can be called on," said Nathan Dick, who at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds is two inches taller and six pounds lighter than his older brother.

"So that's why I've got to come out here everyday with my head on and (keep) reading the playbook and just keep my head in the game and have a great season."

Nathan Dick said he spoke with Arkansas offensive coordinator David Lee before the start of preseason practices, and Lee told the freshman that he has a chance to compete for the No. 3 spot and travel with the team.

Fellow freshmen Joe Chaisson and walk-on Brian Reader are also taking snaps alongside sophomore Clark Irwin for the No. 3 job.

But as Nathan Dick has seen with his brother, anything is possible. Sometimes the quarterback buried on the depth chart becomes the starter.

In a surprise move, Casey Dick became Arkansas' starting quarterback as a true freshman in 2005 after sitting out the first seven games.

Meanwhile, three different quarterbacks started at least one game for the Razorbacks last season — Robert Johnson, Mitch Mustain and Casey Dick. Mustain transferred and Johnson moved to wide receiver.

"With Casey, he's the guy, he's the man for the (starting) job right now," Emert said. "We're just going to try to help him get better and we (the backups) have to get ourselves better and we'll see how it works out.

"Casey is the man, though, and we're going to do our best to back him up."

Emert said he hasn't been told by Arkansas' coaches that the No. 2 quarterback job is his. But he added that he's not worried about how the reps are split up among the backups in practice.

Emert worked in the offseason with Arkansas strength and conditioning coach Don Decker to strengthen the elbow in his right (throwing) arm.

Emert said he noticed in the spring that he had some elbow problems, and he spent the summer lifting weights in an attempt to correct it.

"I can tell a great difference throwing the ball. It feels smooth," Emert said. "I'm not making too many great throws right now (in practice); I'm not making good decisions but I've got to correct that."

After all, no one can predict when one and sometimes two backup quarterbacks will be needed.

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